Saturday, May 7, 2016

Abel Tasman: 4 out of 9

Over the last year, I've managed to complete 4, Beth has done 5, out of the 9 Great Walks. These are the Northern Circuit, Lake Waikaremoana, Whanganui River Journey, and now Abel Tasman. I should have had 5 completed, but my little mishap climbing in December prevented me from doing Routeburn last Christmas. However, its looking like I might run it this Summer if my ankle is co-operating by then. We have already booked for Milford and Raikura for this summer with Beth's parents. We may even do the Otago Rail Trail while we are down there. Any way I digress from the story I was meant to be telling: Our tramp across the Abel Tasman.
It starts with us heading to Auckland on Wednesday evening and staying with our friend Shiv and his wife Ravneet. I worked from his house, while Beth got us Mexican food for lunch and went to Martha's. We then flew to Nelson on Thursday evening, where I worked from a hotel room on Friday. While I was busy coding, Beth walked into town and purchased our last few supplies. For the most part we had flown with our tramping bags ready to go, but we had to top off our gear with a fuel canister for the stove, some lunch snacks, and to fill our water. While checking our packs they were already weighing in between 12-14 kilos without a couple liters of water. They were a little heavier than we usually go out with, but we were carrying our tent and sleeping pads which would usually not accompany us as New Zealand has a robust hut system, but it being a holiday weekend the huts go fast. Like I said, we've already booked for Christmas on the first day that the huts became available and things were already filling up.
We were picked up by a crappy shuttle service and were charged a price that was more than we were expecting. It should be noted that there were a series of emails going back and forth and we were under the impression that since more passengers were coming in the shuttle that the fares would be reduced for each of us as per the emails were always talking about per person, but they only discounted our grand total by $35. A lot of arguing back and forth occurred over the phone and we simply said to charge to our credit card as the shuttle can only accept cash. If we were to stop along the way to get cash we would get charged. If we use the credit card, we get an extra charge. Lets just say there was a bitter taste in our mouth right away and we weren't even out on the trail yet. Love people's mentality, you're a tourist I can probably milk you for more money. We've seen it all over the place, but it still grinds my gears.

We were dropped off at the Southern start in Marahau and walked North to Bark Bay. We covered 23.9+ km the first day including a few side trips. One was to Cleopatra's Pool, I think it would be fun to ride the rapid slide, and the other was to a scenic overlook. We were amazed by the number of day walkers heading South with little or no gear. I'm talking about just basics like food and water. They also just seemed to flounder across the trail making it difficult to continue without stopping to let them past. The tramp wasn't difficult, but with my ankle injury back in December this was the first real test. After about 15km any downhill became excruciating. I was able to soldier on to the campsite, but needed some ibuprofen. We set up our tent right off the beach. Beth organized the sleeping gear while I went and prepared our dinner. We had either canned chicken or tuna with cheesy mashed potatoes with Fritos. This campsite was pretty booked and there were a few bigger groups that liked their alcohol. For one group, I counted no fewer than 8 bottles of wine and a couple of 2lt bottles of cider. This didn't include what they had at their campfire. We just managed to get into the tent after dinner prior to it starting to rain. Having had looked at metservice prior to leaving in the morning we were expecting some severe weather for Saturday Night. However, it was only a short light shower.

The next morning, we broke down the tent and had some breakfast, oats with fruit for me and a pop tart for Beth, prior to heading off to Anapai Bay. We left early knowing that we would have to wait at Awaroa Hut for low tide to cross and it would be a prime spot for lunch. My ankle didn't bother me during the morning section as I stretched it pretty good at breakfast. I did several sets of the alphabet with both ankles to get them ready for the trail. Once the again the actual trail itself wasn't difficult. They are wide, well graded, several sites that provide filtered water, have ample stocked flushing toilets, and for the most part devoid of any mud. This is a departure from the other Great Walks we have done where they are a little more rugged. I definitely wasn't expecting this, but it was welcomed departure from tramping grade tracks given my ankle issues.  However, it means that people don't go in being prepared for when things aren't handed to them on other trails. 
Prior to the hut, was the first time we actually ran into other people heading North. Mainly we were seeing people doing day walks after being shuttled around by a water taxi and heading South. The weather was phenomenal unlike the last year when we did Northern Circuit where we had frosts and a hard cold rain. We walked up and down ridges, across beaches, and across a few bridges. We had a good lunch, pulled out some wet gear to dry in the sun, and chatted with some other trampers heading North. We waited until about an hour and a half before low tide to trudge through the knee height water. However, we had a good laugh at a couple we decided to brave the deeper water to get to our side of the bay. They had to put their packs on their head in order to keep them dry. When they got to our side I could see what a water line high on their chests. Guess they were in a hurry to get to their final destination. After our crossing, we joked with the DOC ranger about forgetting something back at the hut. As he followed us over in order replenish the toilet paper in the flushing toilet opposite the crossing from the hut. We proceeded to make our way to Totaranui the last place to get filtered water prior to our campsite at Anapai Bay. In heading into Totaranui the track had a detour, because of landslide, which seemed to go straight up which wasn't very fun. The downhill section really hurt. I think I just shuffled as best I could as to limit the movement in my ankle. Still it was like an electric fence shock each step I took.

As I was limping into Totaranui, we saw a sign saying that Anapai Bay was over 4km away. We were expecting it to be around 2km, so seeing that sign took the wind out of our sails as it would mean we would be walking with our head torches for a long time. We saw our first cars as we walked through the campsite in order to top off our water and use the toilets. As we walked along the road to get back on the track, we passed another sign just outside of the campground that said 2.2km to the campsite. I like that DOC gives you signs, but when they are conflicting or inaccurate they really piss you off. Am I right Rachel? For the previous distances, we had a map with known points. However, Anapai Bay doesn't have a distance from a major point, so Beth estimated based on the known distances and referencing the map. We soldiered on from Totaranui and after about 20 minutes we were back in the bush and had to turn on our torches as it was past sunset. We walked in the dark with only our torches to guide us. After a long time, we started to hear the ocean, which to me represented the campsite, as all the campsites are next to the ocean. We were slightly concerned when we came to a beach after a long time and there was no sign for the campsite. After walking down another 100m we saw the sign for Anapai Bay campsite. Distance wise, we ended up doing just a little less than day before, but with a long lunch break in the middle.

We walked up the trail to the see who else we would be sharing the campsite with, but we found that we had the campsite to ourselves! This was drastically different from the night before or even the Totaranui campsite we passed hours before. We pitched the tent close to the beach and while making dinner we were treating to a large blood red moon coming over the ridge and illuminating the bay. I tried to take some pictures, but they didn't turn out. We did have a guest weka that night and next morning. We called him matmit after his cousin we saw earlier in the day while talking about timtams. So while discussing timtams a weka popped up around the corner and said "What's up Cuz?" This is part of the backstory for timtam, the weka, I created. He thought we were calling for him, as his name was timtam, not to be confused with the delicious Australian treats that come in a variety of flavors. Yours are on the way Bri. That story continued to evolve the next morning when matmit, you know like the Crimson Twins from G.I. Joe, was checking out our tramping gear. Anyway, Beth and I created a pretty good story about the cousins going by the time we reached Whariwharangi Bay. If only I had recorded this conversation, it could have lead to an epic cartoon series.
While eating breakfast and drinking my morning tea, I set up the camera to record the amazing sunrise that you can see at the beginning of the video. You might notice, that I keep learning more about filming and editing. I might end up investing in a gimbal so the camera isn't so shaky as I basically just shoot while holding on to the gorilla pod. Anyway, I hope to improve at editing the videos and pictures we take into something that is enjoyable for you to watch. Who ever you might be.

So the final day, we had roughly 13km to the trail head in Wainui. Our shuttle was scheduled for pick-up at 1:30 so we figured we would get out around noon and have some lunch as it isn't a short drive back to Nelson. We made our way down the beach with a short stop to marvel at some rock formations that looked awesome for bouldering. After about an hour we had our first South Bound travelers. We deduced that they left from Mutton Cove as when we got there we could see a fresh set of tracks with poles coming from the campground. There was a fair amount of movement at the camp for 8am. There were even a few kayaks, which if you read DOC's brochure you shouldn't go further North than Onetahuti Bay because of remote and exposed coastline. We decided to cut inland toward the final hut, Whariwharangi, instead of walking the coastline to separation point. That detour of about 1km was supposed to add an additional hour to our tramping time and wasn't accounted for in our 13km for the day. We arrived at the hut about mid-morning and had a snack. We also ran into one of the other passengers in the shuttle. She had just started her trip South Bound. We talked about her itinerary for NZ in general and found it to be very weird. She was zigzagging all over the place, but after she said she was flying to some of the locations it made a bit more sense and that she wasn't going to rent a car. That just put her at the mercy of whatever company was doing the activity she wanted to do. Like after doing Tongariro Crossing, she was heading to Auckland to catch a shuttle that takes people to Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and Hobbiton. Both of which are hours South of Auckland and hours North of Taupo. So she would have to pass them just to come back to them. All because she thought she couldn't rent a car here. You can if your driver's license is in English. It's just that you drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right. Then again, I didn't drive for the first 4-5 months we lived here.

Leaving the hut, we got a big kick in the teeth, the dreaded hill that the hotel owner warned us about. It is 3km up and 3km back down. By this time, Beth had some pretty wicked blister on top of blister action that we drained and tried to apply moleskin to. It didn't help. So her paced slowed drastically. My downhill pace was even worse than hers. My ankle basically felt stuck and every rocking step down was a jolt of pain. I had minimal flexion and absolutely no rotation at this point. We kept making our way down. We were passed by a few runners heading out on the trail. What I would give not to be wearing a pack right now and running up the hill with a good ankle. It reminded me a lot of the track up The Mount, a fire road that is over-grown and a points just single track. We finally arrive at the trail head around 11:30. We take off our shoes and have a bite to eat and are eaten alive. We must have sweated off our sand fly spray as both our legs were savaged. Even after applying it, they would still land on you and your previous bites start to burn. Not much fun there kids. I proceeded to give our can of fuel to the first tourists that come by. They just happen to be from North America. I would say the US, but they also had a Canadian in their mix. The shuttle driver, the actual owner, arrived around 12:30 and we departed early. This worked in our favor as he had a bunch of stops to make on the way back to Nelson. The guy kept antagonizing Beth, who pretended to be asleep. The guy was/is a tool. We worked our way back to Marahau to pick up a couple families and even a couple of randoms who just needed to catch a bus less than 10 minutes down the road. They just so happened to be the remaining passengers on our way out. He charged them $25 a piece. We still had about 80 minutes before getting back to Nelson and we were surrounded by kids singing about doing cocaine, smoking weed, drinking vodka, and hitting people with the car. The parents didn't say a word. One of the kids started to feel car sick, so they said sit next to this stranger, Beth. We thought that at least on of the parents would have switched seats with their kid, but no. The shuttle dropped a family off on the side of the road about 30 minutes outside of Nelson and then dropped the other family off at the airport. I can't imagine the stench they brought on to the plane with them. Take an extra couple of hours or even a night to bathe before flying on a plane. No passenger should be subjected to trail hygiene or lack thereof. We were the last to be dropped off. A warm shower, a biscuit, and a hot cuppa tea greeted me at the hotel. Unfortunately we didn't plan well and had to walk to dinner that evening. Our feet weren't happy with us. I'm just glad there was a place less than 1.5km away that offered shuttle rides. We got them to drive us back as their driver didn't start until 6, but we were starving and were there by 5:30 as hobbled as we were.
So in review, we did 3 days of tramping for about 19hrs in total covering from Marahau to Wainui. We camped at Bark Bay and Anapai Bay. I highly recommend Anapai Bay as it was the highlight of our trip. It is just a very nice beach and the campsite has only a few spots. If you happen to be walking through or lucky enough to spend the night please say hi to matmit, but don't feed him. Unfortunately I have to say that so far that this is my least favorite of the Great Walks. There is a lack of variety in the scenery, noise from boats and water taxis, this includes the PA Systems, and the day walkers who don't follow any sort of trail etiquette. However, I would like to go back and see it from a kayak at some point.

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